A couple of years ago I was invited to apply for membership of the Design Factory, an organisation funded by Arts Council England which exists to promote artist integrity, raise standards and to ‘support and develop the very best designers/makers in craft practice today’. I was hugely flattered. I had only just finished my diploma, didn’t know what I was doing and was crashing around in the dark. Through their scheme of mentoring, workshops and support at exhibitions I have learned so much.
Design Factory stand at Top Drawer.
Now, in addition to having an artist’s profile of which I am really proud and which I could not have come up with without attending a writing workshop organised by them, I have taken part in exhibitions which I would not have dreamed of being involved with if it had not been for their support. One of which, Top Drawer, this January has done enormous things for my career, leading directly to 3 exhibitions in interesting places over the next year: This July I will be the featured maker at Hybrid Gallery in Devon, at the same time I am exhibiting alongside Debbie Barber, an established maker whose work is well known at Red Barn Gallery , one of the best known galleries in the North-west. Then, in the autumn, I will start preparations for a collaboration with artist Candide Turner Bridger for an exhibition in Norfolk at Great Walsingham Gallery next year. I can hardly believe my luck!
This week, probably as a direct result of the opportunities which they have provided me with, I was informed that I have been invited to become a Flair Level member of the Design Factory which, in addition to looking great on my CV will give me even more opportunities to learn and to exhibit both nationally and internationally. I am really excited about this. It feels like a true endorsement of what I have been trying to do since I finished the diploma and it definitely promises to open doors for me. There is just one tiny problem – I think I need to get back to the studio and get making – so much to do, so many pieces to create, so little time!
Sorry, I am at it again. This time poor old Mark Twain is getting misquoted but not without just cause if you ask me. You see I have been out and about collecting mud again, this time in a torrential rainstorm, and the residents of a small, respectable town in Devon are probably expressing grave concerns!
This all started because I have been invited to be the featured artist in an exhibition called Escape by The Hybrid Gallery in Honiton this summer. I am excited by this opportunity and thought it would be sensible to begin my making by making a visit to see the space.
We lay like sardines in the back of the car
I remember Honiton. We used to have to drive through it on our way to visit grandparents in Torquay. Then we lay sardine fashion in the back of our Morris Traveller estate, watching the lights and the telegraph poles swoop by on seemingly endless journeys. Now you flash past on the bypass with children firmly strapped into child seats.
Then it was famous for lace and there was a pottery in the town employing quite a number of people making slipcast functional ware. Now many of the shops are gift or good food orientated and there is a Pottery Café on the site of the old pottery which hosts parties where you can decorate pre-fired wares whilst sipping smoothies and tucking into a panini.
It was years since I had visited the town and the rain on this particular day was not at all conducive to sight seeing but Honiton is a true gem! Having had a bit of a look around I squelched my way to the public library where a quick search of the local history section revealed that the original pottery had, for many years, made use of a seam of clay running behind the workshop. That was all the invitation I needed!
I was off – scampering up the main street and leaping puddles like the sure favorite in the National. Lo and behold the house beside the pottery was having building work done and so, swathed in my sodden jacket and dripping with rain clutching trowel and zip lock bags in my damp, little hand, I knocked at the door. Just then a young lad came round the corner of the house. His expression on hearing my request was one of mild shock and incredulity but he agreed to my request and so, before he could call for men with straight jackets, I was down on my knees. Three sandwich bags later (and, some would say, several short of a picnic) I was back at the car with my trophies and ready to start making.